Village of Burns Lake’s downtown revitalization plans are still in the works

Plans to move forward with the Village of Burns Lake's downtown revitalization strategy are still at the forefront of council's 'to do list'.

The proposed downtown core

The proposed downtown core

Plans to move forward with the Village of Burns Lake’s downtown revitalization strategy are still at the forefront of council’s ‘to do list’.

During a special meeting of council held last week, Coun. Quentin Beach said he is eager to move ahead with the plans.

Mike Skene, a transportation specialist and president of the Boulevard Transportation Group and Dan Casey, Boulevard’s transport planner provided an update on the project.

The Victoria based group has been working with the village on a plan to modernize and remodel the downtown core, starting with three key areas which include Gilgan Rd. and Government St., Hwy. 16 between Third Ave. and Centre St. as well as a proposed ‘Gateway Square’ area.

Skene said it will be up to the village to individually implement the three phases of the plan when funding permits.

“To do all three at the one time would be very costly,” he said.

A ‘shovel ready’ action plan will be available when Boulevard Transportation Group complete and finalize the plan, however currently all the concepts presented are preliminary. Skene pointed out that the plan can be changed based upon cost estimates, public requests or suitability.

Gateway Square is a proposed public open space that will be the focal point for the village. He said the long term plan for the space is to be a public plaza.

According to the current action plan, the existing New Leaf Cafe will be a key attraction at the south of Gateway Square while Canada Post will attract a steady stream of visitors to the North portion of the square.

Skene said public activities, civic celebrations and musical performances are all future possible uses for the space. “The town square will really solidify the downtown core.”

The plan also shows that a small section of Hwy. 16 will also receive a makeover.

“Improvements will make the highway, which is the main street more walkable,” Casey said, adding that the Boulevard Transportation Group has been involved in improving numerous main streets in B.C. including Beacon Ave. in Sidney, B.C., Main St. in Whitehorse, Yukon, and Goldstream Ave. in Langford B.C.

Angle parking, tree lined streets, paved walkways and improved seating are all features that have been added to make the spaces more pleasing.

“The main street in Burns Lake happens to be Hwy. 16 so there is limited ability,” Skene said, adding that Government St. and Gilgan St. are a great alternative for a new more walkable, public main street style area.

He also said that the Ministry of Transportation and Highways currently has plans to reseal Hwy. 16 through the village in 2012.

“If this is the case it would push the Hwy. 16 portion of the revitalization plan ahead of the other two [Gilgan St. and Government St. and Gateway Square] because it would be a cost saving measure for the village. He went on to explain that the village could capitalize on the work being completed by the ministry and share costs wherever possible.

According to the current plan, Hwy. 16 would see improvements on both sides from the Francois Lake Dr. intersection to Third Ave., which would include a two metre wide sidewalk, street trees, landscaped areas and new public seating.

“The highway development must be coordinated with the ministry according to highway standards,” Skene said.

Proposed changes to Gilgan St. and Government St. have been the most publicly controversial, with a number of local business owners speaking out against suggested improvements; including a roundabout, changed access to their businesses for customers and deliveries and the ability to clear snow easily during winter months.

Skene said he is aware of the public’s comments and said, “Half of the team are traffic engineers. We know what we are doing and how to deal with snow.”

He also said that local businesses that receive deliveries by truck in the downtown core may have to change the route their deliveries come in to their business, but that all local businesses will be accessible.

“There needs to be a change on both sides. We are not trying to restrict, but to accommodate. The private sector may need to adjust their operations.”

Mayor Bernice Magee agreed. “Accommodate is the key word,” she said.

Skene also addressed the proposed roundabout planned for the intersection of Third Ave. and Government St. by saying that it will be tested from all angles before being set in stone in the plans.

“If it turns out it is not a good fit then there won’t be a roundabout. We are traffic engineers that have built quite a few of these [roundabouts]. We know what we are doing,” he said.

Aside from determining where public and private property lines begin and end and surveying the area to determine if the roundabout will fit in the planned space, Skene said it will also depend on the cost estimates, the benefits it will bring and if the public wants it.

“The plan is still really loose.”

The Village of Burns Lake have initiated a downtown revitalization committee to discuss the plans as the project moves forward.

The committee of 16 people will make recommendations to council based on their discussions.

Eleven members of the committee will be members of the public and will be selected by council. Two councillors will also be on the committee and appointed by mayor Magee as well as three Village of Burns Lake staff members that will be appointed by council.

Skene said the committee members may be asked to provide direction on certain elements of the plan, such as choosing possible works of art to be located in Gateway Square, help with planning the function of the square and choosing a theme for public seating.

“The committee may be asked what colour the street furniture will be and if it will be constructed of pine or iron,” he added.

In a recent in-camera release from the village, councillors approved a maximum of $75,000 from village reserve funds be allocated towards the development of the preliminary downtown design plans.

In a cost estimate provided by Boulevard Transportation Group the second phase, which is developing a detailed design plan, as well as consulting fees will cost the village between $75,000 to $125,000.

From 2009 to 2011, Boulevard Transportation Group was paid approximately $43,000 for the original development of the Village Plan and Urban Design Guidelines document.

The total cost of completing each of the three phases of the plan [Hwy. 16, Gilgan St. and Government St. and Gateway Square] will be determined when the preliminary plans are completed.